The Centers for Disease Control report that obesity in children and adolescents has increased by over 100% in the past 30 years. In the last survey, nearly one third of American children under 18 are obese, putting them at risk of chronic health issues later in life, including diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and bone and joint conditions. Obesity also often negatively impacts mental health, affecting self-esteem and leading to depression, anxiety, and isolation.
Studies have shown that obese children experience more issues related to the development of their bones and muscles than children of lower weights do. Excess weight stresses the bones, tendons and ligaments of their feet, ankles, and lower legs, creating tissue damage and discomfort. Further, the feet of obese children tend to be flatter, longer and wider than those of their non-obese peers. Consequently, they are more likely to experience neck, back, hip, knee, ankle, and foot pain, and they are at increased risk for a wide range of podiatric issues.
Possible problems to be aware of include:
Foot and Ankle Injuries: When children eat poorly and fail to exercise, bones can become brittle. Their bones are likely to be weakened because of the inactivity that causes, and is caused by, obesity. This means that, counter-intuitively, overweight children who are sedentary are more likely to experience a fracture than their more active peers. The constant stress their weight puts on their bones makes it more likely for a sprain or fracture to occur.
Blount’s Disease: Overweight or obese children may present with bowed legs and improper ankle growth as a result of Blount’s Disease. The stress of carrying extra weight can cause these deformities to occur starting from when children are young.
Growth Plate Issues: The heel bone isn’t fully developed until age fourteen. As your child grows, stress and muscle strain from extra weight can cause inflammation of the heel’s growth plate. This condition is called Sever’s disease. It can cause heel pain and walking may become painful. Further, a child with the condition can be susceptible to stress fractures in the heel bone. Slipped capital femoral epiphysis (SCFE) occurs when there is a weakness of the growth plate at the thigh joint. The bones that join at the hip and thigh slip out of alignment and development can be affected. There is joint pain and in severe cases, inability to bear any weight on the affected leg.
The best way to help your child avoid obesity-related podiatric complications is to guide him or her to a healthier weight through diet and exercise. Until that process is complete, it’s important to see the foot doctor regularly. Jason Grossman, DPM has treated overweight and obese children with sensitivity and care for decades. Call Advanced Feet and Ankle Care at (732) 679-4330 or click here to schedule a convenient appointment for your son or daughter in our comfortable and state of the art Old Bridge or Sayreville offices.